Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Riise: I Had To Make Overseas Move

Roma defender John Arne Riise has admitted he could not have played for another English club after leaving Liverpool this summer.

The 27-year-old Norway international, who will line up for his country against the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night, made a summer move to Roma after realising his chances at Anfield could be limited during the final year of his contract as manager Rafael Benitez strengthened his squad further.

He did so after rejecting the advances of a series of Barclays Premier League suitors.

Riise said: "Clubs like Liverpool are always looking round the world for players, and there is always going to be someone new challenging you.

"It was sudden. One day I was a Liverpool player, the next I was going to leave.

"I just wanted to make sure I got the best possible club. There was no way I was going to be comfortable playing for another English club, and I had plenty of offers from other clubs in the Premier League.

"I didn't have to leave because I had another year left, but I did want to be playing regularly and I didn't feel that would happen this season if I stayed.

"I spent seven years at Liverpool and played more than 250 games. The challenge in Italy was the right one for my career and the time was right to change to another country."

Riise's departure came as disquiet behind the scenes at Liverpool rumbled on with Benitez and the club's owners seemingly at odds at times.

However, the Norwegian is convinced the Reds are heading in the right direction.

He said: "Of course there are problems between the owners and the manager, but hopefully they can resolve those problems and settle down."

Whatever the differences behind the scenes, the manager was granted at least one of his wishes this summer when he landed £20million striker Robbie Keane from Tottenham.

The Ireland captain will find himself in direct competition with Riise and his defensive colleagues this evening, and the Molde-born player knows exactly what to expect.

He said: "He is a fantastic player and a fantastic signing for the club.

"I knew he was a Liverpool fan from his childhood and this is the best move of all those he has had in his career. He could be the reason Liverpool will challenge for a title.

"Over the last couple of years, his work-rate has really improved and he is difficult to mark because he is always on the move.

"He is a good link-up player and a very very good finisher inside the box. He is a smart intelligent player and playing behind (Fernando) Torres could be very crucial."

Liverpool's Captain Gerrard Won't Even Walk On The Beach Barefoot

Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard's wife claims that her superstar husband is so obsessed with being clean that he won't even walk barefoot on a beach.

Recalling their first wedding anniversary getaway to Miami in June, Alex, 25, told the Daily Mirror: 'We didn't leave the pool on holiday because Steven doesn't like to get his feet dirty in the sand. The pool is cleaner.

'And if he reads a newspaper, he has to wash his hands straight away.'

England midfielder Gerrard, 28, who lines up against the Czech Republic at Wembley tonight, is not the only footballer with a strange hang up.

David Beckham suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a condition that drives sufferers to carry out bizarre rituals.

Becks, 30, admits his compulsive habits include checking how many cans of cola he has in his fridge, counting clothes and placing magazines in symmetrical patterns.

Lee Admits Reds Struggles

Liverpool assistant manager Sammy Lee admits the side have not been firing on all cylinders so far this season.

The Reds followed up their below-par performance in the UEFA Champions League qualifier with Standard Liege with a far from convincing win over Sunderland last weekend.

Lee accepts there is room for improvement, but admitted it was vital The Reds got their Premier League campaign off to a winning start.

"It's always nice to get off the season under way with a win," Lee told the club's official website.

"I think we are fully aware of the fact we didn't play to our best but the important thing is to get off to a good start with three points away from home.

"Winning isn't all that matters but it's important that you start the season well and finish it well. We need to improve in all areas and that's what we are about anyway; making sure we improve on a daily basis.

"We know we aren't firing on all cylinders just yet but it was just nice to get off to a win, particularly away from home.

"We all want to hit the ground running and you can do no better than to get off to a win. But with Liverpool being Liverpool we are perfectionists. We are never happy whether it's 1-0, 3-0, 4-0 and we'll certainly be looking to improve in the coming days."

Liverpool To Target Wigan's Palacios As Riera Alternative?

Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez is reportedly considering a £6million offer for Honduran International Wilson Palacios from Wigan Athletic. With Benitez singling out Palacios as a possible alternative to Albert Riera, should he fail to sign him from Espanyol.

Liverpool have turned their attention to 26-year-old Riera, now that any deal to bring Gareth Barry to Anfield from Aston Villa looks dead in the water. With the Merseyside club also looking at impressive Honduran Palacios as a viable alternative to the Spanish midfielder.

However, Benitez will have to make a really substantial offer if he is to prise Palacios away from the JJB Stadium, according to Latics manager Steve Bruce. It was Bruce that first brought the attacking-midfielder to the Premier League, when he was boss at Birmingham City.

“We are always going to be seen as little unfashionable Wigan but I know I have some really good players,” said Bruce.

“We have done very well to tie up some of our best players to long-term deals, especially Wilson Palacios. Wilson has the ability to go to the top.

“Last season he was linked with Manchester United - I don't know if there was interest, but it was speculated on because of my past links.

“We worked hard to tie him down and sign a new contract.

“He knows this year is a big one for him and it is going to be hard.

“But he wanted to stay here and it would take an amazing offer to get him off us bearing in mind some of the fees being paid out for some players at the moment.”

With Benitez still fuming at his American owner’s blocking his move for England International Barry. The Anfield board will have to appease him by bringing either Riera or Palacios to Merseyside. Otherwise they could be set to collide again in a repeat of last season.

Liverpool Track Dane Sensation Jorgensen

Liverpool are about to look to Denmark again for untapped European talent, with the Merseyside club keeping tabs on Mathias Jorgensen at FC Copenhagen.

18-year-old defender Jorgensen was pointed out to Reds boss Rafa Benitez, by Jakob Friis-Hansen, who had previously advised Benitez on Daniel Agger and Nicola Savic. Friis-Hansen is set to become the Liverpool scout in the region.

“I have previously advised Liverpool over two Danes, with Daniel Agger and Nicola Savic, both of whom they purchased and are almost too happy with,” said Friis-Hansen to

“I gave them Mathias Jorgensen's name a long time ago and Liverpool are wild about him. They are keeping very good track of him.

“Liverpool see him as a very promising youngster, like I do, and clearly just like a player who will play for the Danish national team for many years to come.”

Jorgensen made his senior debut for Copenhagen in 2007 and made 16 appearances in the Danish Superliga last season.

Liverpool have also taken 14-year-old Marcus Sondergaard to train at the Anfield academy, but any move for the young Danish talent would have to wait until the player was 16.

"It is a great dream that is coming true," Sondergaard told Ekstra.

Aurelio Demands Title Challenge

Liverpool defender Fabio Aurelio says the Reds must mount a sustained challenge for the Premier League title.

The 28-year-old Brazilian is now entering his third season at Anfield and is keen to mark it with a League winner's medal.

"Each season the expectation is very big," he told BBC Radio Merseyside.

"I think that we can show to the supporters that this could be their year so we have to keep it [winning] going now."

Aurelio can play anywhere along the left-hand side but says his preferred role is at left-back.

He has seen his spell at Anfield disrupted by a series of injuries, the most recent being a torn abductor muscle picked up against Chelsea in last season's Champions League semi-final at Anfield.

"Unfortunately the injuries make you miss some games.

"I hope now this [the last injury] was the last one and I can have a great season."

The left-hand side of Liverpool's team has been a cause of concern for manager Rafa Benitez for some time.

In an attempt to address the problem in the close season John Arne Riise was sold to Roma and Andrea Dossena was signed from Udinese.

Dossena has been struggling to adapt to the pace of the English game but Aurelio feels the Italian will come good.

"He is a good signing and will be a good player for us and being honest I wish him all the best and for me and for Liverpool, which is the most important thing."